Portland, Cheverus boys battle to draw

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Cheverus senior Michael Nason heads the ball over Portland senior Berrick Bobe (6) and junior Eric Mukwa during the rivals’ showdown Thursday. The Stags and Bulldogs each scored twice and split Heal Points.

Joe Carpine / 365digitalphotography.com photos.

More photos below.

PORTLAND—For 16 minutes Thursday afternoon at Boulos Stadium, the Cheverus boys’ soccer team had its way with rival Portland, grabbing a quick 2-0 lead behind goals from seniors James Shimansky and Jack Mullen.

But as the old adage suggests, there’s nothing more dangerous than a two-goal lead, especially against the Bulldogs, who absorbed the Stags’ early knockout attempt, then rose off the canvas and roared back.

After several near-misses, Portland got on the board with 7:39 remaining in the half, when sophomore Anselmo Tela scored.

The Bulldogs then pushed hard for the equalizer in the second half and they were rewarded with 29:41 left, when senior Keto Tchiputo finished after a solid individual effort.

The rest of regulation and a pair of five-minute overtimes saw each team have chances to win it, but neither Cheverus or Portland could find the net again and the teams settled for a 2-2 draw.

The Bulldogs settled for their second tie in three days and are now 1-2-2 on the season, while the Stags’ three-game win streak came to a close, as their record now reads 3-1-1.

“It came down to two evenly matched teams who played hard,” said longtime Portland coach Rocco Frenzilli. “It’s not a win, but I’m happy with the result. “

“Portland’s a great team and I have all the respect in the world for Rocco,” said Cheverus coach Matt Andreasen. “He’s accomplished so much and he’s a great guy. It’s always fun to tangle with Portland.”

Potentially special

Cheverus and Portland entered the 2018 season expecting to be in the hunt all year in Class A South and it’s been the Stags who have enjoyed more success in the early going.

Cheverus started with a 2-1 loss at Kennebunk, then edged visiting Falmouth (2-1) and blanked visiting Massabesic (4-0) and host Bonny Eagle (3-0). 

Portland, meanwhile, downed host Massabesic (3-1) in the opener, but the Bulldogs then lost at home to Kennebunk (3-1) and Gorham (3-1) and Tuesday evening, settled for a 0-0 home draw against Falmouth. 

Last fall, the Bulldogs beat the Stags, 4-1, at Fitzpatrick Stadium. 

Entering play Thursday, Portland held a 9-5 lead (with five ties) dating back to the start of the 2004 season (see sidebar, below).

On a beautiful 75-degree afternoon, the Stags hoped to beat the Bulldogs for the first time since a 1-0 victory in the 2014 Western A preliminary round, a victory which propelled them to an improbable state title, but instead, Portland rallied to split Heal Points.

The Bulldogs came out on the attack, as Tchiputo raced in, but his shot, which got past Cheverus junior goalkeeper Harrison Bell, was booted off the line by Stags senior back Tommy Gordon.

At the other end, the Stags struck quickly, as with 36:21 to play in the first half, Mullen dribbled into the box and passed to Shimansky, who sent the ball past Portland sophomore goalkeeper Henry Flynn and into the net for a 1-0 Cheverus lead.

The Bulldogs looked to answer, but a Tchiputo cross rolled through the box untouched and on a throw from senior Pedro Fonseca, Bell robbed senior Nkurunziza point-blank.

After Bell broke up a feed from senior Tyler Lemay to Tchiputo, sophomore Gracien Mukwa shot high.

Then, with 24:12 left in the half, Mullen took a long pass and dribbled around the defense before firing a shot into the net for a 2-0 advantage.

Just when the Stags appeared en route to a decisive win, however, Portland awakened and a focused group of Bulldogs is an inspiring sight to see.

After Bell saved a long Tela shot, Bell and Fonseca collided in the box with the ball squirting free, but the Cheverus defense cleared it.

With 15:47 left in the half, junior Alex Milliones passed to Tchiputo, who dribbled around a defender and went one-on-one with Bell, but he fired the ball over the crossbar.

After Bell made a sprawling save on a shot by junior Eric Mukwa, Stags senior Owen Burke broke up a feed from Mukwa to Tchiputo.

With 7:39 on the first half clock, Portland broke through, as Lemay served a long free kick into the box, where Tela ran on to it and fired a shot past Bell and into the net to cut the deficit to 2-1.

Tela then set up Fonseca with a great chance to tie it, but Fonseca missed just wide.

As time wound down in the half, both senior Nolan Doherty and junior Will Mullen had good looks for the hosts, but both had shots blocked, sending the game to the break with the Stags still on top by one.

In the first 40 minutes, the Bulldogs had an 8-3 edge in shots on frame and took three corners to one for Cheverus, but seven saves by Bell kept the Stags on top.

Portland caught up in the second half.

After Milliones fired a blast just high, Nkurunziza set up Tela with a great chance to tie it and Tela’s shot appeared bound for the goal, but Burke swept it away at the last moment.

The Stags couldn’t stop the next Bulldogs’ foray, as with 29:41 left in regulation after Tela served the ball into the box and Cheverus couldn’t clear it, Tchiputo pounced, took the ball and sent it into the goal to make the score, 2-2.

As was the case when the Bulldogs came to life after seeing a ‘2’ in the opponent’s goal column, the Stags returned to their offensive ways, as a minute after the tying tally, junior Jacob Sargent had a chance to put Cheverus back on top, only to have his bid saved by Flynn.

With 19:03 to play, a free kick from Jack Mullen was on target, but Flynn stopped it.

Portland then countered, but Bell made a sliding save on a shot from Tela, then denied Tela’s low shot.

With 10:53 left, Jack Mullen got past the defense and fired a low shot that Flynn had to dive to knock out of bounds. On the ensuing corner kick, Doherty headed Shimansky’s serve just wide.

The Bulldogs had one final chance in regulation, but Bell got to Nkurunziza’s cross to Tela and the contest went to overtime.

In high school soccer, teams play up to two five-minute overtime periods and if no one scores, the game goes in the books as a tie, which would be what happened on this day.

Cheverus had the lone chance of the first OT, but a long free kick from junior Ethan Hammond was easily snared by Flynn.

Portland nearly won it on a few occasions in the second extra session.

Off a corner kick with 3:35 to go, Tchiputo booted the ball past the far post where senior Henry Westphal was waiting. Westphal fired a promising shot, but Bell made the save.

With 2:15 left, Mukwa bent a promising shot on goal, but it sailed just high.

With 1:25 on the clock, Fonseca had a bid in the box blocked. 

With 57.5 seconds showing, Fonseca got another chance from the right side and when his shot rippled the net, the Bulldogs began to storm the field, but the ball hit the net outside the near post.

One final feed from Tchiputo to Tela went for naught and the game ended in a 2-2 draw.

“I’m proud of how we got it back together again and were able to be competitive and be positive,” said Frenzilli. “I’m glad we got one in the first half and were able to equalize. We’ve got to finish. We can do all the build-up in the world, but if you don’t put the ball in the goal, the other team can take advantage and the next thing we know, we’re down.”

Portland finished with a 15-7 advantage in shots on frame and a 5-4 edge in corners. Flynn made five saves.

Cheverus got 13 saves from Bell.

“Normally, I’d be pretty upset by losing a two-goal lead, but considering the circumstances today, I think the kids showed a lot of heart and character,” Andreasen said. “We were just dropping like flies. It reminded me of the movie, ‘Lone Survivor.’ We had to take on an army of Portland players. We had to preach our next-man-up mentality. The kids bought in and I’m proud of the effort of everybody.”

Breather?

Neither team has many easy games on the schedule, although it could lighten up a bit in the days to come.

Cheverus is back in action Tuesday of next week at Sanford. The Stags next play at home next Thursday versus Marshwood.

“Every coach wants to improve and that’s the goal here as well,” said Andreasen. “I’m happy with the results we’ve gotten so far, but I think we can still get better. That’s our goal, to get better week by week and play our best in October. I still think there’s another gear we can hit. We had moments today where we were OK and the kids are realizing if they play hard, they have a chance to be successful.”

Portland, meanwhile, goes to Windham Saturday and  hosts Bonny Eagle Tuesday.

“It won’t get any easier, but with this tough stretch out of the way, we can focus on what needs to get done, fine tune our game a little bit and keep moving forward,” Frenzilli said.

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

Cheverus junior goalkeeper Harrison Bell cradles the ball as Portland sophomore Mwandja Kaluta closes in.

Cheverus junior Jacob Sargent and Portland sophomore Gracien Mukwa fight for the ball.

Cheverus senior Jack Mullen, who set up the Stags’ first goal and scored the second, boots the ball.

Cheverus senior James Shimansky jumps for joy after scoring the game’s first goal.

Cheverus junior Jacob Sargent prepares to boot the ball away from Portland senior Sam Nkurunziza.

With junior teammate Eric Mukwa cheering him on, Portland sophomore Anselmo Tela gets his team on the board late in the first half.

After scoring, Tela is congratulated by Mukwa and other teammates.

Recent Cheverus-Portland results

2017
@ Portland 4 Cheverus 1

2016
Portland 1 @ Cheverus 0

2015
@ Portland 0 Cheverus 0 (tie)

2014
@ Cheverus 0 Portland 0 (tie)
Western A prelim
Cheverus 1 Portland 0

2013
@ Portland 1 Cheverus 1 (tie)

2012
@ Cheverus 2 Portland 0

2011
@ Portland 3 Cheverus 2 (OT)
Western A quarterfinal
Cheverus 3 Portland 1 

2010
Portland 1 @ Cheverus 0
Western A quarterfinal
@ Portland 6 Cheverus 0

2009
@ Portland 6 Cheverus 1
Western A quarterfinal
@ Portland 1 Cheverus 0

2008
Portland 3 @ Cheverus 1

2007
@ Portland 1 Cheverus 1 (tie)
Western A prelim
@ Cheverus 1 Portland 0

2006
Portland 2 @ Cheverus 1

2005
@ Portland 1 Cheverus 1 (tie)

2004
@ Cheverus 4 Portland 1

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Sports Editor of The Forecaster since 2001. Find detailed game stories at theforecaster.net. I tweet prodigiously at @foresports.